Six years ago a Swiss firm called ISL proposed a 16-team college football playoff with a rights fee of $350 million per year. Insiders were skeptical of the figure, and the proposal was quickly dismissed. "The ISL people were naive to think they could come take over something the NCAA would probably wind up running," says one network executive. "But there's no doubt that a playoff would make significantly more money than the current bowl system."
Don't hold your breath waiting for one. "[Division I-A] presidents have completely rejected an NFL-style playoff," says Penn State president Graham Spainer. "The principal concerns have been the creation of an extra game in the schedule, the potential lengthening of the season and over-commercialization. These factors have outweighed sentiments about increased revenue. So far there has been no dollar figure that has swayed presidential thinking, and most presidents say it isn't, in the long run, about money."
Critics of the presidents' stance are quick to point out that, in the long run, many other aspects of college sports--most notably, the $600 million-per-year NCAA basketball tournament--are, in fact, precisely about money. --T.L.
COLOR PHOTO ILLUSTRATION
Illustration by Slim Films